Notebook

Gambia is like a real-life Tinder for geriatrics

14 April 2018

9:00 AM

14 April 2018

9:00 AM

When Facebook and co stop selling on our details to third parties, will it be the end of spam? For half an hour every evening my otherwise chatty husband is lost to me as he deletes hundreds and hundreds of emails. My PA does the same, and so do I. The waste of time is criminal. But I doubt the spam will stop. If junk through the front-door mail box isn’t illegal, I guess junk through a virtual mailbox can’t be either. Grrr… Technology was supposed to save us time, remember? What a joke. It just frees you up to deal with more junk.

Desperate for sun and time for me to get the final rewrite of a cookbook and a novel done, we looked for somewhere as near culture-free as possible. If there were any museums, art galleries, ancient buildings or sights to see, hubby John would have been in there like a shot, with me tagging along for fear of missing something. Over the years the most culture-free places we’ve found are Sharm El Sheikh and Sint Maarten. Sharm was full of the sort of Brits who make you ashamed to belong to the same nation, and Sint Maarten is two flights and a long way away. Gambia looked like ticking all the boxes: perfect climate, white beaches, English the national language, no time change, only a six-hour direct flight, minimal crime and safe, so we booked.

Gambia is all of the above, but it surprised (not to say shocked) this couple of oldies. It’s a kind of real-life Tinder dream for geriatrics. The beach was full of elderly white European women happily strolling along hand in hand with beautiful young Gambian men. And triumphant seventysomething white men living the dream, cocktails or beer glass in hand, lounging about with glamorous black girls on the double beach beds. If John or I walked alone on the beach, within seconds a charming if overeager ‘beach bumster’ of the opposite sex would tag along, offering to be a ‘friend’.


There were some geriatrics who, like us, hadn’t come in search of sex. Many had been going to the country for years and loved it. But those faithful returners mostly thought they wouldn’t be doing so for much longer. Since British Airways stopped flying there, most of the tourists are on all-in holiday packages, and the hotels are going downmarket, attracting customers in search of the all-you-can-eat-three-times-a-day deal. Next door to our hotel was a mini-Magaluf, rammed solid with drunken young. We were in an old colonial sprawl with spacious gardens, big pool and loungers on the beach. In its heyday it had seven restaurants; now it has only one for breakfast, plus a pool café, and it is thinking of trapping its clientele with an all-in deal. Sad.

One of the joys of doing telly is being fussed over by hairdressers, make-up artists, wardrobe mistresses and style gurus. This morning I was asked what skincare products I preferred. Did she mean the E45 (£9.49 for half a litre) I slap all over my face, body, feet and hands? Or the bubbly stuff from Nivea (all-in-one face, hair and shower wash for men) at £1. Ever since, 30-odd years ago, Anita Roddick broke the beauty conspiracy to tell us vegetable fat was as good as a £300 pot of youth elixir, I’ve happily stayed away from the snake-oil merchants.

I used to be a hot theatre-goer but today I prefer ‘live’ cinema streaming. At least if the play’s a washout it hasn’t cost a fortune. Trip to London, taxis, tickets, dinner and a night in a hotel cost more than a mini-break in Istanbul. But we are risking it for Hamilton. Not till November, though: you have to book ten months in advance.

This winter has meant an unprecedented amount of mud brought in by the dogs and deposited on carpets and sofas. Our cavalier spaniel is the worst offender, partly because she can’t resist a newly dug border or a muddy puddle, but also because she’s low on the ground with feathery feet, tail and tum. Trying to catch her for a freezing douche from the outside tap had her sprinting for the drawing room, so we’ve connected the tap through the wall to the kitchen sink and set the temperature to warm. Now Tattie stands stock still for her shower. If she were a cat, she’d be purring.

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